1958

Wayback Wednesday: Tybee Island Bomb Accident 1958

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Tybee Bomb Image One
Image Credit: cafepress.com
Silkscreen Image For T-shirts

America lost a bomb. I’m not kidding. Sixty-two years ago, today, the United States Air Force dropped a nuclear bomb in the water off the coast of Tybee Island, very close to Savannah, Georgia. A North American Aviation F-86 Sabrejet fighter plane and a Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber collided during practicing exercises and, in fear of a detonation in the event of a crash, the crew jettisoned the bomb. They still haven’t found it and it is assumed to be somewhere at the bottom of Wassaw Sound.

Midair Collision:

The B-47 bomber was on a simulated combat mission from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. It was carrying a single 7,600-pound bomb. At about 2:00am EST, an F-86 fighter collided with the B-47. The F-86 crashed after the pilot ejected from the plane. The damaged B-47 remained airborne, plummeting 18,000 feet from 38,000 feet when [the pilot] regained flight control. The crew requested permission to [drop] the bomb in order to reduce weight and prevent the bomb from exploding during an emergency landing. Permission was granted and the bomb was jettisoned at 7,200 feet […]. The crew did not see an explosion when the bomb struck the sea. They managed to land the B-47 safely at […] Hunter Air Force Base. The pilot, a Colonel Howard Richardson, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after this incident.

Tybee Bomb Image Two
Image Credit: npr.org

The Bomb:

Some sources describe the bomb as a functional nuclear weapon but, others describe it as disabled. If it had a plutonium nuclear core installed, it was a fully functional weapon. If it had a dummy core installed, it was incapable of producing a nuclear explosion but, could still produce a conventional explosion. […] The Air Force maintains that its nuclear capsule, used to initiate the nuclear reaction, was removed before its flight aboard B-47. […] the bomb contained a simulated 150-pound cap made of lead. However, according to 1966 Congressional testimony by Assistant Secretary of Defense W.J. Howard, the Tybee Island bomb was a “complete weapon, a bomb with a nuclear capsule” and one of two weapons lost that contained a plutonium trigger. Nevertheless, a study of the Strategic Air Command documents indicates that Alert Force test flights in February 1958 with the older Mark 15 payloads were not authorized to fly with nuclear capsules on board.

The collision, and its aftermath, also drives the plot of the novel Three Chords & The Truth by Craig McDonald, published in November 2016.

Missing For 50 Years (BBC News)
This Day In Aviation (This site claims the bomber was from MacDill Air Force Base)
Lost H-Bomb: RIP (Savannah Now Archive)
The Case of the Missing H-Bomb (Counterpunch Archive)
The Colonel and the Bomb (The Atlantic)

Veterans Day 2019

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Veterans Day Image One

Last year, I did a post on World War I for Veterans Day as it had been 100 years, exactly, since the end of that war. I also covered how other countries memorialize and/or celebrate and, ended the post with two poems. I’ve written in a previous post about my almost Army brat status and referred to my significant other in this post.

Ken Image One
Hargrave Military Academy Circa 1958

Ken’s first foray into the ‘military’ was the Hargave Military Academy in Virginia. His mother sent him there for summer school to assist with grades after a poor eighth grade year. He stayed for his ninth grade year and did very well. Unfortunately, it was extremely expensive and he returned to regular high school for tenth grade.

At the end of his junior year, he’d had enough of regular high school and made it clear to his mother that he wanted to go into the Navy. The military was all he was interested in. So, at the tender age of 17, his mother signed him into service. He went into the reserves for two years and began to train as a Corpsman. His sea duties were aboard the USS Robinson (DD-562), a Fletcher Class destroyer, the second ship in the Navy to be named after Captain Isaiah Robinson (Continental Navy). The “Robbie” received eight battle stars for World War II service and appeared in the movie Away All Boats.

Robinson Image Two
The Robbie
Circa 1953
Ken Image Three
Circa 1961

After two years of training, he went active duty…and the Navy lost its mind. Orders to report to his new ship in hand, he was sent to Charleston, SC, to be assigned to the USS Canisteo (AO-99), a Cimarron Class fleet oiler, named for the Canisteo River in New York and the only ship to bear that name. It’s crew received nine medals.

Unfortunately, upon his arrival, there was no ship to board. The Charleston Naval Base had no record of it being there and, in the meantime, he was sent to the transit barracks. While waiting, he volunteered to be a lifeguard for a week. The remaining time was spent waiting at the barracks. After three weeks, the Navy adjusted his orders and sent him to Norfolk Naval Base, the home port of the Canisteo. Upon arrival, no ship. He was, again, assigned to the transit barracks…until they could find the ship. After a four-day wait, the Navy adjusted his orders a second time and he was sent to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard. The shipyard had no record of the Canisteo being there so, he was sent…a-gain…to the transit barracks. His ship was finally found at the Todd Shipyards in Red Hook Brooklyn, a civilian shipyard. With his orders in hand (now, a rather large portfolio of paperwork), stamped by the Navy (adjusted a third time), he headed to his ship. He reported to the Officer of the Deck and was told that he had been reported AWOL. The OOD examined the orders, informed him that his Corpsman striker slot had been filled due to his (unintended) absence and, just like that, he was transformed into part of the deck force, wiping out two years of training. He became a Bosun’s Mate striker. *facepalm*

Canisteo Image Three
The Canisteo
Circa 1961
Ken Image Four
Circa 1962
While on board the Canisteo, he participated in the Cuban Blockade

He left active service in 1964 and rolled into the IRR, waiting for the end of his contract to expire. On March 8, 1965, Marines landed near Da Nang, marking the beginning of the ground war in Vietnam. Ken was working a full time job and was watching what was going on. By the summer of 1966, he decided that he was going to go back to the Navy, interested in the River Patrol (and PBRs) and went to see a prior service recruiter. The recruiter told him that the Navy would not give him his rank back. Ken left his office and was stopped by a Marine recruiter in the hallway. He told him to go back in and ask about the Seabees. He did so and the Navy prior service recruiter changed his tune. Off he went to Camp Endicott in Rhode Island for training. He was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 and sent to Gulfport, Home of the Seabees.

He arrived in Vietnam in July of 1967. His base was Camp Haskins on Red Beach in Da Nang. The Marines were on Monkey Mountain across the bay and at Da Nang Air Base in the opposite direction, across the highway. At the beginning of the Tet Offensive, the bombing of the Air Base in January of 1968 nearly knocked Ken out of a guard tower. He was designated a builder and did his share of such but, spent most of his time running patrols with the Marines.

Ken Image Five
Gulfport, MS
Ken on the left.
The puppy had been rescued from a house fire.
Circa 1967
Ken Image Six
Camp Haskins
Notice the guy waving in the background.


On November 3, 1967, a fellow Seabee had an accident with a saw while cutting some wood. A sawhorse shifted and the man injured himself, accidentally. The blade cut an artery in his thigh and Ken’s Corpsman training kicked in. He, literally, stuck his hand into the guy’s thigh to clamp the artery with his thumb and forefinger. When the rescue helicopter arrived, the coagulated blood on Ken’s arm prevented him from being able to remove his hand from the guy’s thigh. Ken got a free ride in the helicopter to the hospital with his charge. A life was saved (the actual details are pretty gruesome).

Ken Image Seven
A life saved…

And, this concludes my long-ass tribute to my Fleet Navy/Vietnam Seabee veteran. If you have a veteran in your life…hug them. ~Vic

[Addendum: When I moved in with Ken some years ago, I was looking at his DD-214. He swore he only had one and I saw from the data that he had two. We sent off for his records and, sure enough, there were two. I discovered that, when he went to the prior service recruiter, the guy didn’t bother to check to see if Ken was still on contract. He was and, had he checked, Ken could have returned to the Navy, with rank intact, and left for Vietnam as part of the Brown Water Navy…and most likely died. The life span of PBR guys was fairly short.]

Throwback Thursday: January 31 Trivia Bits

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January 31 Calendar Image One
Image Credit: axial.net

January 31 doesn’t appear to be a day where anything really Earth-shattering happened. I have gathered up a few noteworthy thingys…

1940…….Ida May Fuller was issued the very first Social Security check (numbered 00-000-001) for the amount of $22.54.

1958…….The very first satellite put into Earth orbit by the United States was Explorer I. Launched at 10:48pm EST, it was the first to detect the Van Allen radiation belt.

1961…….Ham the Chimp was launched from Cape Canaveral in the Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) test flight of Project Mercury. He was returned to Earth, safely and lived an additional 22 years.

1971…….Apollo 14, the third mission to land on the Moon, was launched at 4:03pm EST. Mission Commander was Alan Shepard, Command Module Pilot was Stuart Roosa and Lunar Module Pilot was Edgar Mitchell. They landed in the Fra Mauro formation, the aborted Apollo 13 mission’s destination.

2000…….Dr. Harold Shipman, British serial killer, was found guilty of murdering 15 patients under his care. The Shipman Inquiry estimated the total victim count to be 250. Known as The Angel of Death, he hung himself in prison in 2004, one day before his 58th birthday.

Notable Birthdays
1892 Eddie Cantor (d. 1964)
1919 Jackie Robinson (d. 1972)
1921 Carol Channing (d. January 15, 2019).
1923 Norman Mailer (The Executioner’s Song) (d. 2007)
1929 Jean Simmons (d. 2010)

Notable Deaths
1606 Guy Fawkes (b. 1570)
1945 Eddie Slovik (the only American soldier to be court-martialed and executed for desertion since the Civil War) (b. 1920)
1956 A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh creator) (b. 1882)
1974 Samuel Goldwyn (b. 1882)
1976 Ernesto Miranda (Miranda vs Arizona & “Mirandize”) (b. 1941)

Tune Tuesday: Casa Loma Orchestra 1944

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Glen Gray & Casa Loma Orchestra Image One
Image Credit: hotmusiccharts.com

Seventy-five years ago, today, the #1 song on Billboard (pre-hot 100 era) was My Heart Tells Me (Should I Believe My Heart?) by Glen Gray, his Casa Loma Orchestra and singer Eugenie Baird. Written by Harry Warren (Lullaby of Broadway, Jeepers Creepers & That’s Amore) with lyrics by Mack Gordon (Chattanooga Choo-Choo), this was the theme for the 1943 musical film Sweet Rosie O’Grady. Betty Grable sang the song in the movie.

Glen Gray & his Orchestral version was number one for five weeks from January 29 to February 26, boosted by the popularity of the musical. As a popular standard for the 1940s, other well-known artists with their own versions include Etta Jones (1961), Frank Sinatra (1945), Nat King Cole (1958) and Tony Bennett (1955). Glenn Miller & his orchestra had a go in 1944, broadcasting to German soldiers. From Dance in the City (Page 191):

“One of the paradoxes of the Nazi terror was that SS officers themselves demonstrated a fondness for swing (Vogel, 1962).

Mike Zwerin (1985), in his exploration of jazz under the Nazis, described a Luftwaffe pilot who switched on the BBC hoping to catch a few bars of Glenn Miller before bombing the antenna from which these forbidden sounds were being broadcast. Allied propagandists recognised the potential for exploiting the contradictory allure that jazz possessed with Nazi society.

The sound barrier of 1944 was marked on the one hand by the music of the Nazi marches and on the other by the big band swing of Glenn Miller. The Allies attempted to exploit the popularity of swing inside Germany. On October 30, 1944, Miller’s swing tunes were aimed at German soldiers through the American Broadcast Station in Europe (ABSIE) in an effort to persuade them to lay down their arms.

Major Miller addressed German soldiers in their own language with the assistance of Ilse Weinberger, a German compere and translator. Ilse introduced Glenn Miller as the ‘magician of swing’ and, through a strange act of cultural alchemy, tunes like Long Ago and Far Away and My Heart Tells Me were rendered in German by vocalist Johnny Desmond.”

Throwback Thursday: Kathy D. Sullivan & Space

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Kathryn D. Sullivan Image
Photo Credit: wikimedia.org

October 11, 1984, Kathryn Dwyer “Kathy” Sullivan became the first American woman astronaut during the STS-41-G mission to perform an EVA or an extravehicular activity (3.5 hours worth), which freely translates to a “space walk”. This was NASA‘s thirteenth flight in the Space Shuttle program and the sixth flight of the Challenger. She was the Mission Specialist 1 and had just turned 33 years of age eight days prior.

She received a Ph.D. in geology from Dalhousie University in 1978, became an Adjunct Professor of Geology at Rice University in 1985 and joined the Navy Reserves in 1988 as an Oceanography Officer, retiring after 18 years at the rank of Captain.

April 24, 1990, she served on board the Space Shuttle Discovery as a Mission Specialist 3 for the STS-31 mission that launched the Hubble Space Telescope. March 24, 1992, she served as Mission Specialist 1 during the STS-45 mission on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis. She was part of the Group 8 NASA Astronaut selection on January 16, 1978. She left NASA in 1993.

Other October 11 space-related trivia:

1957…..Operation Moonwatch scientists calculate Sputnik 1‘s ‘satisfactory orbit’ with an IBM 704.

1958…..NASA launches the lunar probe Pioneer 1 (Pioneer Program). It falls back to Earth and burns up.

1968…..NASA launches Apollo 7, the first crewed flight.

2000…..NASA launches STS-92, the 100th Space Shuttle mission to the ISS via Discovery.

Tune Tuesday: Tommy Edwards 1958

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Alright, kiddies, we are traveling back to the past, again, for some more music. The #1 song sixty years ago, today, was a piece composed by Charles G. “Hell and Maria” Dawes in 1911, the future Vice President of Calvin Coolidge. It’s original name was “Melody In A Major”. Carl Sigman added lyrics in 1951 and Tommy Edwards recorded it. It was a so-so hit, then and, he re-recorded it in 1958. It is the only known #1 single in the U.S. to have been co-written by a U.S. Vice President and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Here is…It’s All In The Game.

And, the original 1951 version: